Multiple Fatalities Lead Regulators to call for Action on Farm Safety

 

Multiple OHS regulators across Australia have called on farmers to take a more diligent approach to safety, with the latest data finding that the agriculture industry made up just 2% of the workforce but accounted for 21% of worker fatalities and 3% of serious claims for workers’ compensation.

In Victoria, there have been twelve workplace deaths from incidents on Victorian farms since July 2017, an average of one a month.

Six people have died as a result of on-farm workplace incidents since January 1, which is half of the workplace deaths that have occurred in Victoria so far in 2018.

WorkSafe Victoria head of hazardous industries and industry practice Michael Coffey said too many farm deaths were the result of one decision, often made in haste.

“There is no disputing there are all kinds of risks in farming. The work can be awkward and arduous, it can involve machinery, heavy lifting and dealing with large and unpredictable animals,” Coffey said.

“But fatalities and serious injuries occurring on farms are also being caused by the way in which the work is being done, or by people not using available safety devices.

“It is people not wearing helmets while riding motorbikes or quadbikes, not wearing fitted seat belts, not making sure guards are in place following maintenance, working too close to moving vehicles, or one person trying to do every task themselves rather than asking for help.”

Coffey said keeping safety in front of mind for each task was crucial to making farming workplaces safer.

“Experience doesn’t prevent fatalities or injuries on farms. Carrying out the same tasks every day can often lead to complacency and people taking shortcuts to save time or money,” Coffey said.

SafeWork NSW also said the agriculture sector continues to be one of the state’s highest-risk industries with more than 7,300 workers compensation claims from 2014/15 – 2016/17, which came at a cost of $167 million to the NSW workers compensation system.

“The farming sector is vital to the NSW economy, but with 99% of NSW either in drought onset, drought watch or drought-affected, SafeWork NSW is very mindful of the challenges farmers face,” said SafeWork NSW executive director, Tony Williams.

He said SafeWork NSW was implementing a number of initiatives that are having a positive impact on farm safety.

“Quad bikes are the leading cause of death on NSW farms and SafeWork NSW is leading the way both in NSW and nationally to improve quad bike safety,” he said.

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